Written By: Kadeem Lundy
Hailing from Hackensack, New Jersey Jovan Acree is a rising fashion designer and media creator on a mission to make an impact. Jovan got his start in sports even landing an opportunity to try out for the New York Knicks before venturing into the fashion world. Acree started his own clothing brand of jeans called Daekshin, a brand which weaves in Japanese fabric and has been worn by A-list celebrities. Acree also created a media company named Impact Media Universe or simply IMU which strives to create liberating content while giving young media makers new opportunities. Acree who is repped by Aquil Smalls Consulting spoke to The Knockturnal about his journey from playing hoops to the fashion world.
The Knockturnal: Talk a little bit about your journey from The Knicks to starting your own clothing line.
Jovan Acree: Well, this is my journey from how I even got an opportunity to get to owning a brand and dealing with fashion has been a long journey. Basketball has been a passion of mine since I can remember and working out and playing in the NBA was the first inspiration. It took me an opportunity to go from high school at Hackensack High School, [which I] played high school basketball for the Comets and then it took me to Delaware State University where I was Prop 48’d. I had one year to play basketball there where it didn’t go so well, but I transferred and took a little bit of time off. At that time, I was sprung into fashion where I thought I was going to be pretty much on camera, being a model, being something like that. It really took me back, I kind of fell on my heels when basketball didn’t work out right away. So it was like, okay, you know these things happen. Being a young kid at that time, trying to chase my dreams I decided to take myself back to college and this was around 2010 while I was pursuing fashion. It was kind of tough breaking in the industry. I had a couple of odd jobs working in the industry, product placement, working with Tommy Hilfiger, I worked with a few brands, taking photos, I ran into a manufacturer at that time while I was pursuing my basketball career, he pretty much taught me the whole manufacturing game when it comes to cutting sole vinyl, heat press and that’s when I created my first brand. It was IMU. It was like a T-shirt and hat brand while I was trying to get my brand off and running. But he introduced me to a denim and that’s when it got very interesting at the time. Basketball, was pretty much getting full speed. I was moving back to junior college at Raritan Valley Community College. Well, I got an opportunity to rock at BET Rip the Runway that was around to 2010. So I was into fashion while playing ball at the same time I was creating the brand. I was able to play ball at the same time and be able to create my brand and that’s when everything hit and I was like, you know what? Let me keep pursuing my career basketball is going great. That summer, I decided to take my aspirations overseas. So I tried out for the USA Select team and I made the tour team going into the 2012 Olympics. Around that time when I got back, I didn’t make major teams yet. I had semi-pro opportunities with the Bay Area Shuckers, Cleveland Havok in Texas. And while I was balling I was still pretty much floating around, trying to get money in my pocket and that’s when I had the opportunity to keep pursuing the dream of fashion, at the same time my aunt decided to invest into me. God rest her soul. She died of uterine cancer around that time. That was the money that I decided to invest in the brand and manufacturing. We partnered up and that’s how I was able to create this amazing denim at the same time while I was pursuing my dreams of raising the money to play basketball. Two thousand fifteen. Fast forward I had an opportunity to work out with the Erie BayHawks. That was the G Leagues opportunity and that landed me to the New York Knicks final cut. And that was an opportunity that was given to me at that time. I got to the last cut, although I didn’t make it on that floor, I still had a brand, I was still representing brands and product placement, creating brands and Daekshin was born at the same time. I have an opportunity to deal with this fabric [Japanese Selvedge]. Nobody really has this fabric. This fabric comes from China and I was able to be able to work with Japanese Selvedge and put it on celebrities like Wendy Williams and we also got it on Deborah Cox. We got it on national TV as well. We got it on Lil Pump. We got it on Tiffany Haddish, maybe 20/30 celebrities during this time. Then the New York Post gave me an opportunity to tell my story. So here we are fast forward, $895 mark-up for the denim and nobody has this type of denim.
The Knockturnal: You also have the Impact Media Universe along with your fashion brand. Can you talk about balancing all that together?
Jovan Acree: So the interesting thing about that is before I had all of these brands that I could collaborate and advertise with, the media company was built in between that time. I needed a place to house these brands and advertise this brand. So I started a media publication that Rutgers University gave me an opportunity to give me space with my tech media company and this is where we shoot. We produce the content for all the brands. I’m giving college dropouts and college students an opportunity to work at a tech company and do the same thing I was doing with the product placement, with the brands creating their own vision, meaning writing, producing and creating content on the publication.
The Knockturnal: I know you just mentioned about your brand and working with the celebrities. Can you talk a little bit more about connecting with their people in order to get your fashion label and your fashion designs into the forefront through the celebrities?
Jovan Acree: I had to travel out and some of the relationships that I got like shoutout to Finesse Mitchell he’s worn a pair of jeans as well on national TV as well for me, he was one of the stars at the time that was on Wendy Williams show when she had her layover. Shoutout to Marco Glorious the talent producer, he gave me the opportunity to get the denim to Wendy Williams as well. He also got the jeans to Tiffany Haddish. Also, they were featured in Rolling Stone with the Wu-Tang series [promo]. These are the must-haves. The first year I went to the BET Experience, I got an opportunity to see the Michael Blackstons and some of the top tier celebrities that are around that. It’s been an experience. Shout out to Pat Robertson as well. She’s another person that’s been able to recommend me to some of the celebrities as well. I needed a woman and I needed a man. It’s been pretty exciting to see the denim on national TV. That So Dub is the connection that got the denim to Lil Pump for me that was on the West Coast. Yandy Smith is another person, Charlie Wilson is another individual who has worn them. We also have LaLa Milan, who is a good friend of mine as well, who I just seen her during New York Fashion Week. She’s another person who has supported me during this time.
The Knockturnal: And so with the name of your jeans, Daekshin what does the name mean?
Jovan Acree: Daekshin, that is Japanese for dedicated to your style.
The Knockturnal: Interesting to know. And what advice would you give to future generations, I know you mentioned earlier working with kids and younger generations. So what advice would you give to the younger generation that wants to follow in the industry of fashion?
Jovan Acree: What I would like to give to the younger innovators disruptors in the industry is keep God first and believe in your testimony: suffer, struggle, sacrifice all the way through every lesson that I’ve learned was worth it. The relationships that I built, the character of the brand. It’s all a process for you to learn, create and build a legacy for not only yours but the people that’s behind you because their stories are supposed to be told and given to those that are coming from behind you. I think that being able to produce and be able to build in each and every area because first I didn’t have a photographer. So I had to learn photography. I didn’t have celebrities. So I had to entrust people like Leah Clark and people that were product placing in the game that helped me get the brand in front of celebrities, even though I didn’t have those relationships were very important. Also, when it comes to media, building your brand is so important and keeping it authentic is very important. Keep it real so people can get behind you and support you.
The Knockturnal: And what else do you have coming out of there?
Jovan Acree: So this spring, I’m actually getting ready for a men’s fashion week. Also BET, the brand is going to be in a few movies and then a couple of collaborations with some content. I’m currently waiting for my influencer deal to announce the influencers that are going to wear the denim for the national campaign. I’m excited about that. And we’re getting ready for our college tour in the fall. So just getting ready for that.
The Knockturnal: And just one last question for you, actually. So recently we had the New York Fashion Week in February. Can you just talk a little bit about that? And were you able to experience that New York Fashion Week that just passed? Were you able to have a little bit of experience with that and talk a little bit about that?
Jovan Acree: Yes, I have some really good friends that were in New York Fashion Week. I sat in two shows. I’m just really getting ready for the content. I’m headed toward L.A. Fashion Week. Exactly. So I have a couple of collaborations. I’m just getting ready for that as well. New York, Fashion Week is always the top tier. All the fashion brands, if you’re the who’s who, you have to be there. And I think this season I actually took a little bit back because I was preparing for this spring. Shout-out to Marcus Blassinggame as well he’s one of the individuals who’s put the jeans into the magazine for me, and Joe Exclusive who is a stylist that was able to put the jeans in the right hands as well. But I do have some really good relationships when it comes to the brand and they support my media company as well because we promote other up-and-coming brands on the site, sneakers as well. Shout out to Patrick Ewing as well.
(Cover photo source IMUMEDIA, 2nd photo courtesy of NY Post, 3rd photo and source Knockturnal)